Ramallah, February 19, 2020—A United Nations human rights treaty body issued recommendations last week to the State of Palestine on how to improve the rights situation for Palestinian children after examining its child rights record in January.
The United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child released its findings and recommendations on February 10 following the initial review of the State of Palestine’s compliance with the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). The Committee’s Concluding Observations recognized that ongoing Israeli military occupation, illegal settlement expansion, and Israel’s closure of the Gaza Strip constitute serious obstacles to the implementation of rights enshrined in the CRC and lead to grave violations of children’s rights.
However, the Committee also acknowledged issues that, despite the challenging circumstances, could be improved, including the legal and policy framework, the protection of children from violence, the situation of children with disabilities and the mental health of children, among other issues. The Committee noted the State of Palestine’s limited progress in resolving internal political issues has negatively affected children's rights.
The Committee urged the State of Palestine to:
-Conduct a comprehensive review to fully harmonize existing legislation with the principles and provisions of the CRC and to expedite the adoption of pending child-related legislation.
-Prepare a comprehensive policy on children that encompasses all areas covered by the CRC and continue efforts to revise existing policies and strategies and to develop a comprehensive implementation strategy supported by sufficient human, technical and financial resources.
-Amend and harmonize legislation to remove all exceptions that allow marriage under the age of 18 years.
-Enact comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation, review legislation and practices, with a view to prohibiting all forms of discrimination, particularly against girls, and strengthen the effectiveness of social protection system for all children in disadvantaged or vulnerable situations, without discrimination.
-Ensure that the best interests of the child is a primary consideration and consistently applied in all judicial proceedings and decisions and develop procedures and criteria to provide guidance to all relevant persons in authority for determining the best interests of the child in every area and for giving it due weight as a primary consideration.
The Committee welcomed the State of Palestine’s accession to international conventions and protocols, adoption of the Decree-Law for the Protection of Palestinian Juveniles (2016) and of the Decree-Law on Public Education (2017) that stipulates the adoption of a policy on inclusive education. The Committee also noted significant progress in vaccination coverage of children and the high number of births attended by skilled health personnel.
The review concluded on January 29 and took place during the Committee’s 83rd Session at the United Nations Office at Geneva, Switzerland. Civil society organizations including Defense for Children International - Palestine attended the review.
The delegation of the State of Palestine consisted of representatives of the Ministry of Social Development, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates, Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Education, Ministry of Health, Public Prosecution, Sharia Judicial Council, Central Bureau of Statistics and the Commission of Detainees and Ex-Detainees Affairs.
The Committee on the Rights of the Child began its initial review of the State of Palestine’s compliance with the CRC on June 3, 2019, in Geneva, Switzerland. At the June pre-sessional working group meeting, the Committee considered the State of Palestine’s initial report and information from civil society organizations, including DCIP, in an effort to narrow the scope of the full review that occurred in January 2020.
In 2014, the State of Palestine acceded to the CRC and the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict. In so doing, the State of Palestine agreed to respect, protect, promote and fulfill the enumerated rights — including by adopting or reforming laws and policies in line with the provisions of the CRC and Optional Protocol. It also obligated itself to periodic review.
The State of Palestine submitted its initial report to the Committee demonstrating CRC implementation nearly two years after the required 2016 deadline, on September 21, 2018. As a parallel fact-finding process, the Committee invites nongovernmental organizations to submit independent “alternative reports” to identify gaps and underline challenges that may not appear in the state’s report.
In 2019, Defense for Children International - Palestine submitted a joint alternative report in collaboration with eight other local, Palestinian nongovernmental organizations, finding the State of Palestine had significant obstacles to overcome in order to achieve full compliance with the CRC.
The joint report found that a web of overlapping bodies of laws amounting to different legal systems apply to Palestinians living under Israeli military occupation in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem.
These inconsistent legal standards stem from the number of past and present authorities who have exercised or are exercising jurisdiction. In addition, poorly defined roles for various duty bearers, a lack of fund allocations, and insufficient data collection all presented major roadblocks to the full implementation of the CRC, the joint report found.
The State of Palestine will next be reviewed by the Committee on the Rights of the Child in 2025. This periodic review will followup on the recommendations from the initial review and other issues.